Aboriginal Tent Embassy going up at Nimbin Rocks next month

Uncle Robert Corowa will set up a tent embassy at Nimbin in July in solidarity with the West Papua Freedom Flotilla. (Doug Eaton Coffs Coast Advocate)

Melissa Gulbin Coffs Coast Advocate 17 Jun 2013

An Aboriginal Tent Embassy at Nimbin Rocks will be established next month.

It is being set up in solidarity with the West Papua Freedom Flotilla, a convoy of resistance against what the independence movement call the "genocide" of its Indigenous population under Indonesian military occupation.

It will be a tight itinerary, but last week it was decided that Nimbin would be added to healing ceremonies taking place from Lake Eyre to West Papua.

The official Nimbin ceremonies will take place on Sunday, July 28, but the public are also invited to prepare the day prior.

The Indigenous populations have granted each other with Aboriginal passports.

"All life is sacred," explained Uncle Robert Corowa of North Lismore, the official "fireman" of the embassy.

"West Papuan people are our closest neighbours, they've been our neighbours for thousands of years and those people have had their livelihood disrupted due to all the killings," he said.

"This is about putting on the pressure.

"They haven't been lost in a storm, they are not in detention centres.

"Half a million people are dead."

The convoy intends to transport sacred water collected from the mound springs of Arabunna country while following the ancient song lines across Australia in a freedom ride from Lake Eyre.

The convoy aims to reconnect culturally and creatively with Aboriginal communities at Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and now Nimbin.

The people of the Northern Rivers have been invited by Arabunna Aboriginal Elder Uncle Kevin Buzzacott, who believes that following their song lines will reveal a deep connection between the lands which were once joined.

"We were one people, we still are one people. We must uphold our cultural connection, the old land is calling us," he said. To be involved email ruth.forsythe@gmail.com.

Following song lines

To get from Lake Eyre to Papua New Guinea, the convoy will follow song lines, or dreaming tracks, the paths recorded in traditional songs, stories, dance, and painting.

A knowledgable Indigenous person is able to navigate across the land by repeating the words of the song, which describe the location of landmarks, waterholes, and other natural phenomena.


Aboriginal Tent Embassy: fire man's reflections

Samantha Turnbull ABC North West Coast NSW 6th July 2012

A sacred fire is at the heart of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and Robert Corowa is one of the men who keeps it burning*.

Robert Corowa is an Aboriginal Tent Embassy fire man.

Now living in Lismore, he was just a child when the embassy was created, but he has camped there many times over the years and has been charged with keeping the site's sacred fire burning.

"We have a scared healing fire which we try to keep going," he said.

"We try to make people understand the Aboriginal Tent Embassy loves Australia and we try to heal everyone in Australia with that fire.

"We want to heal Australia and the world.

"We want all the Aboriginal people, all the white people and all the people who haven't been born yet to be a part of this nation.

"There's such a thing as love, peace and respect and that's what we're trying to instil in people who come here - you better respect Aboriginal people and Aboriginal land."

He said the Tent Embassy, which is celebrating 40 years this NAIDOC Week, is the same it always was.

"It hasn't changed at all, there's no buildings," he said.

"Aboriginal people aren't represented by buildings they're represented by land and the land is what we care about."

Mr Corowa said his fondest memories of the embassy were sharing the space with Aboriginal people from across the nation.

"Seeing other Aboriginal people from all over Australia who are endeavouring to preserve their sights and their lands... we're still here and that's the message we'd like to make clear, we were the first Australians," he said.

"Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard do not represent us, they represent the Queen, we are represented by our elders."


Left: Robert Cowora at 'Camp Sovereignty' Melbourne, April 2006 (The Age)
Robert Cowora at Canberra Aboriginal Tent Embassy, February 2012 (Northern Star)